Testing Google Translator Toolkit

Once again, an interesting initiative from Google: GoogleTranslatorToolkit (here GTT for short) – aiming at using machine translation to fix the rough output, then us humans collaboratively polishing the result. When I first heard about this, I sure got interested and now I’ve tried it out.

Presently, from English only [Update: many languages supported]

At the time of this writing, the only GTT source language is – surprise! – English; something tells me this is going to change in the near future, however. I write pretty often in English but like to have some of those texts in Swedish as well so I figured I could try GTT with a blog post about Flickr I had in the works. After the Flickr text was done and published, I fired up GTT and entered the blog url and a moment later I had the original, English text in the left hand GTT pane and the machine translated Swedish version to the right. In my opinion, Google machine translation does a surprisingly decent job, even though idioms and special expressions naturally can mess things up big time.


Then to work! When you start editing the machine translated text, GTT automatically marks a section of the original text to the left and the corresponding target section pops up to the right. First I checked if the GTT suggestion made any sense at all (most often it definitely did) and then I made my edits and clicked the cross mark in the pop-up box – done. Section by section, I worked my way through the text and sometimes I had to make pretty extensive changes – deviating completely from the suggested translation – but often the GTT output was really close to the mark so only minor grammatical corrections were needed.

Downloading the finished translation

When I was done with the complete blog post, I marked the text finished and downloaded the target (Swedish) html file that was formatted almost exactly as the original blog post. All the hyperlinks were functional as well so I just copied the whole thing and published it to my blog. Now I have the same blog post online both in English and in Swedish – it just might make people wonder a bit!

Verdict [Update: great built-in GoogleTalk!]

So, is GTT any good? Absolutely, definitely, yes. Very good indeed – if you’re working with a fact-based text using uncomplicated syntax. GTT doesn’t do the job for you all the way but it saves lots of time by providing the rough output that is easy to edit until the result is just the way you like it. The really interesting part is the collaborative aspect that I was not able to try out: if someone has already translated the text you’re working on, that translation will be available for you – if the previous translator has shared his or her work. Can’t wait to check this out! You can also work together with a bunch of people in real time if needed.

Google is investing heavily in translation services so it will be very exciting to see how GTT will reflect this in the future. Thumbs up from me to the GoogleTranslatorToolkit.

About niiloa

Language teacher, EdTech coach, GSuite superadmin, YouTuber, podcaster, advocate for international school collaboration
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4 Responses to Testing Google Translator Toolkit

  1. Anonymous says:

    This sounds really useful, Niilo. I like the idea of collaborative improvements on the translation….and no doubt Google will learn from them.

  2. niilo alhovaara says:

    I think GTT will definitely be useful, Susie. From now on, I’ll probably have quite a few of my blog posts both in English and Swedish! Apart from that, it might be an interesting – and fun! – learning experience, trying to translate texts that are more complex and have lots of imagery. Machine translation will have major trouble there for sure :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    When i tried GTT for the first time I was really thrilled. Now I lookin for a teacher in Södertälje who wants to try it in class. The relation between machine and the human is an interesting subject and if u want a great article about it in swedish try: http://www.iis.se/docs/digitalis_filosofi_web.pdf – page 37

    When will we see a GTT where u translate from swedish to english?

  4. niilo alhovaara says:

    Henrik, thanks for the link. As to other source languages, I don’t think it will take long until they show up – Google has obviously high priority on this. I’d love to try Swedish to English (obviously!) but also Finnish and German to English and Swedish. My German is extremely rusty so it would be a really interesting experiment :)

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